their opinions are not the same

Thursday, 16 April, 2015 - 3:53 am


Dear Friends,


The founder of the Chassidic Movement, Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, said: “There has to be Mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) in order to love a fellow Jew, even a Jew that you have never seen.” As I was growing up, I looked around and thought to myself that you need much more Mesirut Nefesh to love a Jew that you have indeed seen and met, than for one that you haven’t. We all love to love a person that we’ve never seen, that has never annoyed us, that has never said something unpleasant or made a face at us.

We are in the middle of Sefirat Ha’Omer, the days when we don’t have haircuts, don’t get married and don’t have any celebrations because we are in mourning over the twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva who died during these days. The Talmud tells us that they died “because they did not honor each other.” But we must not forget that remembering and mourning are not enough. We must learn from their mistake and act accordingly.

Often, people ask me: “How is it that you are friendly with so many people, even those who think so differently from you – sometimes extremely differently?”

I always tell them the words of the Rebbe, who quoted the Talmud, saying that “Just like [human beings’] faces are not the same, so too their opinions are not the same.” The Rebbe explains that the goal of creating people with different opinions is not that they should fight each other and belittle each other, but that they enrich each other with varied ideas. How simple; for one single, unanimous opinion exists only in North Korea…

But there is one condition that must exist so that the varied opinions will serve as catalysts for enrichment and not for strife and mutual contempt, and that is: an unspoilt mind, a refined ego. When this condition exists, a person will use his intellect and his wisdom in order to search for the truth and find the best way to improve the world around him – “Tikkun Olam,” as it is referred to today. And when there is inner refinement, expressing one’s personal opinion will not involve belittling the other and relating to him disrespectfully.

And that is precisely the reason that we have forty-nine days until the holiday celebrating the Giving of the Torah, so that we should know that before one acquires knowledge and wisdom, before one receives the Torah, one must dig deep inside, examine one’s character, nature and personality traits, and then purify them and refine them. Only then will we be able to express our own opinion.


Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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